For the typical dreamer, a dream is usually a phenomenon that’s only experienced in hindsight. We may be moved to wonderment by the memory of it, but oftentimes we’ve missed out on the actual moment of participation. What’s more, we may already have begun to alter many of the details due to foggy recollection. We’re thus already experiencing a translation of our dream by the time we awaken.
In order to catch the legitimate experience while it’s actually occurring we have to somehow become conscious and aware in the midst of a dream in progress. This is called lucid dreaming. It is possible, with practice and clear intentions, for us to literally be “awake” while sleeping. We can be as consciously aware inside of a dream as we are in waking life.
A lucid dream will be marked by a moment of recognition. In one way or another, you will find yourself saying, “I think I’m dreaming this right now!” What happens next will be crucial, because it’s very easy for us to slip out of this state of alertness and let our dreams move on without our conscious participation. A lot of literature about lucid dreaming advises us to try and find our hands at this point. This is one simple means of focusing and of holding on to the moment of awareness for as long as possible. Our bodies probably serve as the most trustworthy points of reference for us because we identify ourselves with them so much during our waking hours.
Unfortunately, this moment of lucidity within a dream can be experienced at random times; and many people never arrive at it. How then can we actively seek – or invite – lucid dreams? First we have to believe that such a thing as lucid dreaming is possible. If you look at your dreaming life as just another kind of awareness and experience – the other side of waking consciousness – then it will seem much more feasible for you to remain alert when you enter into this other state.
If you’re clear in your belief that lucid dreaming is a natural process, then you can train your mind to be alert to it with gentle reminders. Simply tell yourself, before going to sleep at night, that you will awaken inside your dreams. We usually don’t carry conscious suggestions with us into the dream state only because we so firmly believe that waking and dreaming are such distinctly different activities. Tell yourself that, although you are about to slip into another realm of consciousness, you will continue to be alert and responsive.
Nightly dream activity typically feels divorced from the rest of life, like a bizarre side-show. Lucid dreaming can teach us that we’re capable of many levels of awareness, and that each one offers valuable treasures of wisdom, knowledge and insight. We can learn how truly flexible consciousness is, and how many different environments it can operate in. Anyone who has been touched by the inexplicable wonder of a dream can learn to carry some of this magic back up into their waking lives. The daily world of ordinary consciousness may never look the same again.